The Akron Zoo penguins in the soap opera “The Young and the Flightless”
With breeding season in full swing, drama is a reality among the close-knit group of Humboldt penguins at Akron Zoo’s Penguin Point. Normally, penguins mate for life, but younger individuals can take a while to settle down.
Those interested in penguin chatter are invited to listen to the zoo’s new series on the affairs of short-legged swimmers, “The Young and the Flightless”, available on YouTube at www.youtube.com/watch?v =CNZ_3NluZG4.
Episode 1, released Thursday, features Anchovetta (nicknamed Chovie) who put her longtime friend Huevo in the “friend zone” when he was not moving.
She moved away and last year had a chick with the colony’s other single male, Pedro.
Vicky Croisant, the zoo’s senior wildlife keeper, explains how Huevo had to be put in solitary confinement for a while because he wanted to break up Chovie and Pedro and could potentially hurt their chick.
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Croissant said the chick has since “gone off to college” to be weaned and learn to swim and now Chovy and Huevo are back to being buds, implying things may turn out differently for Huevo this breeding season.
Another bachelor, Rico, will be the subject of future episodes.
The Akron Zoo is home to 18 Humboldt penguins, including the two chicks born last year. Since Penguin Point Zoo opened in 2003, 19 chicks have been born.
Humboldt penguins, a warm climate species, are native to the coasts of Peru and Chile. They are currently vulnerable to extinction due to the harvesting of guano used as fertilizer. Harvesting destroys nesting sites.
Elena Bell, the zoo’s marketing manager, said new episodes are planned to be released throughout this year’s breeding season, which started in November and will run until May or June.
She said things should get hot pretty soon, despite the weather.
“We have the most activity earlier in the year.”
The 18 penguins on display include seven breeding pairs, two single males and the two juveniles born last year, a male and a female named Ernesto and Xiomara.
The number of new chicks produced each season varies.
“Usually we couldn’t get eggs, or more than several eggs. It really depends on the pairs, their mood and how things are going,” Bell said, adding that the pair of the year last had been designed for a successful season.
The record is four chicks, which hatched around 2007.
Not all baby birds stay at the zoo, as some will be shipped off as part of its work with other zoos to build genetic diversity in the captive population.
In the meantime, viewers can subscribe to the zoo’s YouTube channel to keep tabs on any “poultry game.”
The Akron Zoo is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is $12, $10 for seniors and $9 for children 2-14. Parking is $3.
For more information, visit akronzoo.org or call 330-375-2550.
Eric Marotta can be reached at 330-541-9433, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @MarottaEric.